Pentecostalism vs Charismatic Movement: What’s the Difference?


Many people know that the terms “Pentecostal” and “charismatic” are associated with certain beliefs, churches, and people in modern Christianity but aren’t sure how they compare. Although the terms have overlapping definitions, there are important differences between them.

Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement are in general agreement about baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the practice of miraculous gifts. The main difference between them is that Pentecostals have their own denominations and churches, while charismatics belong to historic denominations.

When did Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement start? Who founded and influenced each tradition? How do their beliefs about the Bible, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and views on miraculous spiritual gifts compare? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Pentecostal Christianity
What exactly do the terms “Pentecostal” and “charismatic” mean? See below

Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement Compared

The Pentecostal and charismatic movements each trace their history to the Holy Spirit’s work in the book of Acts as well as the other writings of the New Testament.

When did modern Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement begin? Most historians trace the modern expression of each tradition to the 20th century. The origin of Pentecostalism is often dated to the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 in Los Angeles, California. The origin of the charismatic movement is conventionally dated to the 1950s.

What’s the primary difference between Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement? The primary difference between the traditions is not theology, but where adherents worship. Pentecostals worship in denominations and churches that are fundamentally committed to Pentecostal doctrine and practice. Charismatics believe and practice Pentecostal expressions in historic Protestant denominations like Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches.

OVERVIEWPentecostalismThe Charismatic Movement
FoundedHistorians conventionally date the origin of the modern Pentecostal movement to the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California in 1906.People began reporting the increasing occurrence of Pentecostal expressions in historic denominations in the 1950s in California.
Meaning of the nameThe word “pentecostal” comes from the word “Pentecost,” which describes the unique and powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early church, as recorded in Acts 2.The term “charismatic” comes from the New Testament Greek word charismata, which means “gifts of grace.” The charismatic movement is also known as “Neo Pentecostalism” and “charismatic renewal.”
FounderPentecostalism doesn’t have a single founder. All of the early influencers (see below) contributed to the establishment of the modern movement.The charismatic movement doesn’t have one founder like what Martin Luther is to Lutheranism or John Wesley is to Methodism.
Branch of ChristianityPentecostalism is Protestant. Many of the ideas it embraces are rooted in the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther of Germany, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, and John Calvin of France.The charismatic movement is Protestant in its beliefs about Scripture, the Atonement of Christ, salvation, the Trinity, original sin, and the Second Coming.
Early influencer(s)William J. Seymour (1870-1922), Agnes Ozman (1870-1937), Charles Parham (1873-1939)Dennis Bennett (1917-1991), Episcopal priest; David Wilkerson (1931-2011), though he was a member of the Assemblies of God denomination, greatly impacted Christians in the historic denominations
Significant writing outside the BiblePentecostalism doesn’t have any literature that is unique to its tradition that is of great significance to the establishment and definition of the movement. It generally values the classic literary works of Protestantism.Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade; the works of J. Rodman Williams (1918-2008); the works of Wayne Grudem
OrganizationHistorically, Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination per se, but a belief system that certain denominations hold. The largest Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God.Charismatics belong to historic traditions like Lutheranism, Baptist, Presbyterianism, Methodist, Episcopal, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholicism.
DivisionsDisagreements between Pentecostals often include the doctrine of perfectionism. For example, the Assemblies of God disagrees with the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) about perfectionism.Perfectionism is likewise a point of contention. Some details regarding their unique doctrines are sometimes debated, such as whether speaking in tongues is a foreign language or a spiritual one.
Theological and social worldviewPentecostal denominations and churches tend to be conservative theologically and in relation to social issues.Charismatics tend to be conservative; however, many mainline Protestant denominations have adopted liberal and progressive viewpoints on a variety of social issues in the last few decades.
Charismatic Christianity
What do Pentecostals and Charismatics believe about baptism and communion? See below
BELIEFSPentecostalismThe Charismatic Movement
GodOrthodox Pentecostals are devout Trinitarians. They believe there is one God, and that the Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit are each fully God.Charismatics are unwavering Trinitarians. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are fully divine.
The BiblePentecostals believe God inspired the biblical authors. Many conservatives use the term “inerrancy” to describe the nature of the text.Like other Protestants and Pentecostals, charismatics believe the Bible is the sole authority for establishing doctrine and for determining Christian practice.
View of the atonementPentecostals believe that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity; they hold to “penal-substitutionary atonement,” which means Jesus’ death paid the price for sin, and on the cross, he took the place of sinners.Charismatics believe the same as Pentecostals regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.
SalvationPentecostals are mostly Arminian. The largest Pentecostal denominations like the Assemblies of God are Arminian.Charismatic Christians may be Arminian, Reformed or Calvinist, Lutheran, Baptist, or something else.
SanctificationSome Pentecostals reject the doctrine of perfectionism; others affirm it.In general, fewer charismatics accept the doctrine of perfectionism because historic denominations reject it.
Water BaptismPentecostals practice “Believer’s Baptism” as opposed to infant baptism. Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.Charismatics may practice Believer’s Baptism or infant baptism. Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.
CommunionPentecostals believe the bread and the cup are memorials of Christ’s death. They don’t believe Christ is present in the elements in any way.Charismatics may believe in the memorial views, the spiritual presence view, consubstantiation, or transubstantiation. They tend to hold whatever view their denomination teaches.
EschatologyPentecostalism is premillennial, meaning it interprets the 1,000-year period described in Revelation 20:1-6 literally. The millennium occurs after the rapture, the seven-year tribulation, and the Second Coming.Eschatology is a tension for many charismatic Christians. Premillennialism is a crucial doctrine for Pentecostalism, yet charismatic Christians worship in denominations that are firmly committed to other views, especially Amillennialism.
PentecostalismThe Charismatic Movement
Baptism in the Holy SpiritA central belief for Pentecostals is that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs sometime after conversion.Charismatics generally believe the same, though some debate about whether baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of conversion or after conversion.
Speaking in tonguesAnother central belief for Pentecostals is that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.Speaking in tongues is an important practice for charismatics. In agreement with Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement believes the point of the gift is empowerment for ministry, overcoming sins, and other markers of sanctification.
Miraculous giftsPentecostals affirm the present-day use of so-called miraculous gifts like healing, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.Charismatics also affirm the present-day existence of miraculous gifts, and that Christians should expect them and seek them.

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